FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen-District 15
(603) 271 - 3076
Gov. Lynch, worked together with a bipartisan legislative team recently to make sure that New Hampshire leads the nation in helping move people off welfare and into self-sufficiency. We believe that when we are talking about moving people from welfare to "work;" we must focus on ensuring that work means the same thing as it does to you and me - a job with regular responsibilities and a regular paycheck.
That is why Governor Lynch recently issued an Executive Order that will improve how New Hampshire implements federally mandated changes to our welfare program. Under federal law, beginning in October and through the next year, an average of 50 percent of New Hampshire welfare recipients need to be in what are known as "work-related" activities - that's everything from vocational training to helping at a local nonprofit.
Gov. Lynch and his many legislative colleagues wants to make sure that welfare recipients are on their way into the workforce, not just participating in make-work activities.
The federal government has long recognized New Hampshire's welfare program as one of the best in the nation for moving people off welfare into permanent self-reliance. Gov. Lynch is acting to ensure that, as New Hampshire moves to meet the new federal mandates, we don't lose sight of the real goals of ensuring self-sufficiency and long-term success in the job market.
As is usual with Gov. Lynch, he brought a bipartisan group of lawmakers together to discuss the Executive Order before it was issued, and I was part of that discussion. We all recognized the Executive Order for what it is - ensuring that the promises that Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen made during the legislative hearings were kept. That's an important part of Gov. Lynch's job, ensuring that legislation is implemented in the best way possible.
Unfortunately, the Union Leader and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Jim Coburn - in a desperate attempt to find an issue to attack Gov. Lynch on - continue to mischaracterize the order.
In its July 13th editorial, the Union Leader said that the Executive Order forces the state to pay for child care or transportation even if people can get a ride with friends or have a relative watch their children.
What Gov. Lynch's Executive Order actually says, is "The Department of Health and Human Services shall, maximizing the use of federal TANF funds, ensure access" to child care and transportation.
That is something the Department promised to do, and that is just good common sense. If we want to help people off welfare and keep them off welfare, we have to make sure they have transportation to actually get to a job and we have to make sure their children have a safe place to stay. That is the type of helping hand that will let people be self sufficient in the long term.
And to say that increases costs is completely false since the Department of Health and Human Services had already committed to developing these programs - and recognizes that ensuring access to child care and transportation is essential to getting people off welfare permanently. And, to help pay for this, there's a $40 million reserve account in Washington which can only be used for offsetting New Hampshire initiatives.
Commissioner Stephen promised the legislature that he would maximize child care, transportation and job training opportunities as we moved forward to meet the federal guidelines. Then, after Gov. Lynch issued his Executive Order, the Commissioner said he was already planning to do everything mandated by the order. Now, the Commissioner claims that the executive order will cost lots more money than he was planning to spend. Commissioner Stephen can't have it both ways. Either he wasn't being straight with the legislature, or he's not being straight now. Either way, it's time for the Commissioner to work to implement welfare reform in accordance with federal law, state law and the Governor's executive order. He also needs to keep his promises.
Gov. Lynch has brought Republicans and Democrats together to ensure that we implement welfare reform in New Hampshire in a way that is in keeping with our state's values - giving people a hand up so that they can truly become self-sufficient.